Keep calm and carry on

Expert advice on how to minimise the stress of buying or selling your home.

Buying or selling a home is a big deal for most people. And while most will find it exciting, the process can also leave you feeling a bit stressed.

With first home buyers now returning to the market in greater numbers, around a quarter of current buyers are going through the process for the first time. For these people, the property market can give rise to a fear of the unknown, adding to the high stakes of knowing you’re dealing with one of the biggest financial transactions of your life.

But fear not. Whether you’re buying or selling, doing your homework and taking some practical steps to prepare yourself and your finances will go a long way towards removing the uncertainty and hassle.


Know what your property is worth This eliminates one of the great unknowns, offers some certainty about your financial position, and removes the worry that you will inadvertently sell yourself short. Attend open homes and see what local properties are selling for. Get a free market appraisal from a real estate agent and tap their knowledge of the local market.

Understand and choose the best sales method Your agent can give you expert advice on which method is likely to achieve the best sale for your home in the current market. Whether it’s an auction, or other methods such as tender or sale by negotiation or advertised price, deciding on your sales method will allow you to study up on how the process works, so you know what to expect.

Negotiating and dealing with buyers Your agent is the professional, let them take the lead. Despite the high stakes and your personal attachment to the home you’re selling, try not to take the process with buyers personally.


Save You need to come up with a deposit and be in a financial position that will demonstrate to lenders that you can afford to buy, and repay a mortgage – so get saving! First home buyers may also have the option of tapping into their KiwiSaver account. The bigger your deposit, the stronger your position will be when it comes to borrowing and buying a home.

Line up your finances Work with lenders and have a mortgage pre-approved before you start looking. Then you’ll have a clear idea of what you can (and can’t) afford and spare yourself the heartache of falling in love with a dream home that’s out of your financial reach. Factor in all the added costs of buying and moving house such as valuations, legal fees, removals, new furniture and any alterations.

Know what you’re looking for Think about your past, present and future homes and make a list of ‘must-haves’ and ‘nice-to-haves’ – covering features including space, number of rooms, storage, gardens and off-street parking. Discuss these with a real estate agent and build up a realistic view of what you can afford, and where, that will best meet your requirements. Bear in mind that you’re unlikely to find the ‘perfect home’ – so be ready to compromise on ‘nice-to-haves’.

Dealing with vendors Don’t take things personally and understand that negotiating (and/or auctions) are part of the process. You can’t control what others will offer, so focus on making the best and smartest offer you can. There’s no point stressing out if you end up paying a few thousand more than you expected for a home you really want. Over the longer term you’re likely to recoup the extra money and make more on your investment.


Johanna Leighton, a real estate agent in Bayleys’ Remuera Office, is a graduate in psychology and former counsellor. She says solid preparation and planning along these lines is key to removing many of the causes of stress – but it’s impossible to eliminate them all.

Events that could send vendors’ blood pressure soaring include finding issues on your property title, a lower than expected valuation, the discovery of defects in an inspection, or a lack of suitable offers. For purchasers, it could be seeing a dream home whisked away by another buyer.

“Whether you’re buying or selling, it can be a real roller coaster of massive highs and lows, and this can be ongoing,” says Leighton.

“But I think the key is for people to accept that it’s a process, that there are stages to it, and that it can take time to buy or sell.”

With the stakes so high and the variables so complex, having an agent, lawyer and mortgage advisor who are supportive, responsive, and good communicators, to lead you through the process and keep you informed, can be a huge comfort. Not all are created equal; Leighton recommends seeking recommendations from friends and family.

She also swears by the value of checklists – to bring order and a sense of control to what can seem a bewildering set of tasks, and remove the fear of forgetting something.

With so much going on, Leighton says it’s also important for vendors and buyers to simply acknowledge the pressure and be kind to themselves. “Let yourself have that extra glass of wine, have those takeaways for dinner instead of cooking, call that friend to offload if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

“If you got an offer that was really low and you’re gutted and depressed about it, then offloading and sharing how you’re feeling is really important.”

As with other challenging situations, it’s important to know your own de-stressors and techniques to stay calm. “Exercise and time in nature are proven stress busters, and most people will get a lift from doing things they love, whether it’s a hot bath, a movie or a catch up with friends,” adds Leighton.

Above all, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective that the demanding period will soon be over – and ensure family members understand any resulting tensions will likewise soon pass, without allowing them to have a long-term impact on relationships.

This is great advice because, after all, people are generally moving house for positive reasons. So dealing with some short-term pressure and ensuring you buy well will ultimately pay off when you pick up the keys, move in and take up your new life in a new home.


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